Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool on 8th October 1993.
Madam President, as I walked through the Winter Gardens during Conference Week, I passed the bookstalls and what do I see, I see memoirs, memoirs to the left of me, memoirs to the right of me, memoirs in front of me, volley, volley and thunder. Madam President, let me say right away I'm not about to write my memoirs, not for a long time.
There's a job to be done, a job of service to this nation and I believe in service.
There's a job to be done, a job I was elected to do and I propose to go on doing
it. Madam President, there's one aspect of the memoirs that I may write in future
that you needn't wait for -
Do you think any of them look worried? Apprehensive? Touch concerned? They needn't
be, they're a first-
And isn't it good to see Michael back?
Did you see those exercises? I dare say they're going to enliven quite a few Cabinet meetings in the future.
Madam President, I've been coming to this conference on an off for about 30 years.
It's a very great event in the political calendar, but it's something else as well.
It's a family gathering and like all families, from time to time, we have our squabbles.
So today, before I turn to other matters, I want to say something to you, specifically
as leader of the Conservative party. Our party has served our country in Government
more often and better than any other democratic political party in the world. We've
done so because we're the broadest based political party this country has ever seen.
Our support comes from all classes, all income groups and all parts of the United
Kingdom. Madam President, I know our party. It can bear many things -
We've always known where it leads, and so, in this private gathering we have today,
we might as well state it plainly. Disunity leads to opposition. Not just opposition
in Westminster, but in the European Parliament and in town halls and county halls
up and down this country. Of course we won't agree on every single aspect of policy.
No one expects that. We're a democratic party with a whole range of lively ideas.
But I think you'll agree with me upon this -
And if agreement is impossible, and sometimes on great issues it is difficult, if not impossible, then I believe I have the right, as leader of this party, to hear of that disagreement in private and not on television, in interviews, outside the House of Commons.
Madam President, the last year has shown how hard every part of our party can fight for what it believes in. Let the next year show that we can channel all that energy together in a common effort against our opponents and for the policies we care about.
This week, an unusual week, this week we had two conferences for the price of one. First, there's the one we've been at.
And then there's the one we read about.
You know, I'm not absolutely sure that everyone's caught up completely with the current mood of our party, so I'm going to ask you three questions and I want to hear the answers loud and clear so that no one can doubt where you stand. They've very simple questions and very straightforward.
Aren't you fed up with people running our country down?
Aren't you fed up with people writing our party off?
When people ask, "Will the Conservatives win next time?", what do you say?
I didn't quite catch that.
Yes. Yes. And yes again. And you don't need shorthand to get that down.
You see, Madam President, this is a family gathering, just as I said. But now I want
to reach out a little further to speak not just to you, but to those outside this
hall who may be listening. I want to share some thoughts with you and see if they
strike a chord with your own experience. I think that many people, particularly those
of you who are older, see things around you in the streets and on your television
screens which are profoundly disturbing. We live in a world that sometimes seems
to be changing too fast for comfort. Old certainties crumbling. Traditional values
falling away. People are bewildered. Week after week, month after month, they see
a tax on the very pillars of our society -
Let me tell you what I believe. For two generations, too many people have been belittling the things that made this country. We've allowed things to happen that we should never have tolerated. We have listened too often and too long to people whose ideas are light years away from common sense.
In housing, in the '50s and '60s, we pulled down the terraces, destroyed whole communities
and replaced them with tower blocks and we built walkways that have become rat runs
for muggers. That was the fashionable opinion, fashionable but wrong. In our schools
we did away with traditional subjects -
Others told us that every criminal needed treatment, not punishment. Criminal behaviour was society's fault, not the individual's. Fashionable, but wrong, wrong, wrong.
Madam President, on all these things, received opinion with the wisdom of hindsight, received opinion was wrong. And now, we must have the courage to stand up and say so and I believe that millions and millions of people are longing to hear it.
Do you know, the truth is, much as things have changed on the surface, underneath
we're still the same people. The old values -
Madam President, I believe that what this country needs is not less Conservatism, it's more Conservatism of the traditional kind that made us join this party.
This week, this week we've made a start. Now we must see it through. It's time for this party to return to its roots. Madam President, our economic roots are clear. We're the party of Adam Smiths, not John Smith.
And Adam Smith was the apostle of free markets and that is why we regard the present
world trade talks as so important. At meeting after meeting, we have battled to keep
those trade talks alive against difficulty after difficulty, because nothing will
do more for growth, nothing will do more for jobs, nothing will do more for confidence
in our future than agreement in those trade talks. But if other governments don't
play their part, if they hold back, if they won't face up to their domestic difficulties,
then those talks could collapse and the dangers of that happening are devastating.
They could unlock protectionism, poverty and unemployment on a scale that we have
not seen since the 1930s. A great deal is at stake. And because a great deal is at
stake, I don't believe we ought to be mealy-
People accuse us -
Over the last three years, the whole country has sweated and slogged and suffered to turn this economy around. Now, steadily, it's happening. Recovery is under way. That's the message from British business. The economy's growing. You may not see it yet, but it clearly is growing and it will show. And as the economy grows, the family budget will follow, so people have every reason to begin to start feeling better again. Inflation's down. Interest rates are down. Exports are up. Productivity's up. Retail sales are up. Manufacturing output is up. And the number of people in work is up. Madam President, it's the opportunity cocktail we've been wanting for years and it gives this country a head start on prosperity for the rest of this decade.
So, let's try and build up that confidence, instead of forever seeing it knocked down. Why don't we try something different? Why don't we tell people about Britain's successes? And let me tell you about them, in the strictest confidence...
... so they're sure to leak out.
Who says we can't make things in this country? Manufacturing industry is one of our great national assets.
Three weeks ago -
Fourteen years ago, Britain was going nowhere. Now it's going everywhere and selling everywhere. We're making goods, making profits, making waves, right across the world. But despite that, despite the growth we've had there and the growth to come there, I must warn you, it's still going to be tough and everyone in business here today, or everyone who listens to what I say today, knows how hard they have to compete. At present, Europe, our biggest market, is stuck deep in recession. It's held back by social costs it can't afford. It's losing markets to Japan and to America and to the Pacific Basin. And that, Madam President, that, amongst other reasons, is why I refuse to accept the Social Chapter. It's not a chapter of rights, it's a charter for unemployment and we don't want it here.
What we do want is more of our best brains going into manufacturing industry. Let's see them give politics, the City, journalism a miss and go into manufacturing industry where their skills can be so badly needed.
And let's see our great manufacturing centres humming with activity as we move towards
the millennium. Let's turn British inventions into British industries, British factories
and British jobs. Let them make pounds for us, not dollars, marks, and yen for other
people. Ministers are told, whenever they go abroad, part of your job these days
is to open the door for British business. We're backing exports with cheaper credit,
more Government muscle and a new breed of diplomat -
At home, at home we're taking the ridiculous burden of red tape off business and off citizen alike. And I can tell you, in the next session of Parliament, there will be a big deregulation bill to show how seriously we take that.
Here's a good old British maxim you can all remember: if the price is right and the goods are good enough, then sell abroad and buy at home. That's the way to make sure that British industry continues to boom.
But there are other things we need to do for industry. Industry isn't asking us for handouts and special help. It's asking us, as the Government to play our part in creating the right economic environment for industry to let loose its own energies and compete on a level basis with the rest of the world. So here, Madam President, is another ambitious target for our country: not months but years and years and years of sustained growth without the curse of inflation. That is at the heart of our economic policy for the 90s. It's a prize for which British Governments have struggled for 30 odd years and yet now, it's within reach and we are not going to throw it away.
Just remember, only three years ago, inflation was over 10%. Now it's under 2% and it must be kept low. Inflation is in check but it's never in checkmate. Back in the 70s, soaring prices destroyed savings. We all remember that. We all want to make sure it never happens again. But to do that, to make sure it never happens again and destroys businesses and livelihoods and savings, sometimes we may have to hold back our ambitions for tax and spending.
Madam President, let me get one thing entirely clear. Our views on tax are different from those of the other parties. What the Conservative Party is aiming for is a Government that lives within its income and without your income. Other parties tax because they want to. We tax only because we have to. So come rain or shine, taxes will always be lower under us than any other kind of government.
But success has another vital ingredient, getting public finances back under control.
At the moment, largely because of the recession with the great collapse in come than
that created, we have a huge gap between what Britain spends and the tax we take
in. We have to narrow that gap. It is true -
But now Britain's recovering so we have to cut the deficit. We all agree on that but it's no good agreeing on the principle unless you take the action and it's no use people urging us to take the action unless they are prepared to back us when we have taken it for it may often be difficult.
There are tough choices ahead and we must make them and we will make them because it is in the interest of our country to make them and we have that responsibility.
Of course, people's opinions will differ. Some say tax more, some say tax less, some say spend more, some spend less but stay out of my backyard. All that's perfectly okay for the opposition but it won't do for the Government party. We can't have a lobby against every difficult decision. Decisions are what government is for and we have to take them.
So, once the debate is over, once Ken Clarke has announced out budget proposals, we Conservatives must work together and take that message to every single part of the country. But there is one thing I can tell you that you can take with it: high income tax is no part of this party's programme.
It never has been and, as far as I'm concerned, it never will be.
Madam President, high on every Conservative list is raising standards in our schools. That's why John Patten's first concern is with what parents think and what our children need. There are tens of thousands of excellent teachers up and down the country and I'm proud to pay tribute to all they do on behalf of our children. But there is bad teaching as well and many parents and many pupils know that only too well. Our children must be taught what they need to know. That's why we need a national curriculum. It's why we need national testing. Not just for the sake of it but to find out what our children have learnt and what they have failed to learn. And when we know what they've failed to learn, we can put it right. But without those testing, we fail those children because we never learn what they haven't understood at an early stage in their school career.
The principle of tests is not negotiable. We don't need reams and reams of complex papers that take hours for teachers to handle. What we do need is those simple pencil and paper tests that this party has always asked for and that is what John Patten is going to deliver for us. Because unless we teach a child to read, to write and to add up, then we hobble that child for the rest of his life. Take John Prescott. For the audience at Brighton last week, his speech was a religious experience, mainly because it passes all understanding.
But push him to one side. I saw a letter recently from over 500 university teachers
of English. And they say in their letter that it's disastrous and harmful to teach
standard English, great literature and Shakespeare in our schools. Apparently, teaching
Shakespeare threatens to reduce a living language to a dead one. They say -
Well, I'll answer them in words, perhaps, they might approve of. Me and my party ain't going take what them on the Left says is okay, right.
Madam President, over the past few months, in meetings with party workers -
But we know now, it was not enough. In many parts of the country, crime figures have risen remorselessly. Crimes once confined to the cities have spread out into the rural areas, bringing alarm where alarm was never before. And that is the reason for our new approach. We have tried being understanding. We have tried persuasion. Madam President, it hasn't worked.
I know criminals are a problem in a cell but they're much more of a problem on the street. And policy must be dictated by the needs of justice, not by the number of prison places we happen to have available on any given day. If someone belongs in prison, when that is where they should be and that's why we're building more prisons. Better the guilty behind bars than the innocent penned in at home.
Let me tell you how I see things. We need tougher rules on bail and no bail for the worst offenders. An end to the right to silence, as Michael Howard announced earlier this week. And more information for the police from DNA testing. We're going to use science to help catch the criminal and not let silence protect the criminal.
Here too it's back to basics. For some, punishment seems to be a dirty word. Well, you'll find it in my dictionary and I strongly suspect that it's in yours.
Some time ago, I said we should condemn a little more and understand a little less. And I meant that for this reason; if we let young people at an early age think crime is a normal part of growing up, if we let them off with a caution, a caution and a caution, it is small wonder if they feel there is no peer pressure turning them to law and order, and they turn to bigger crime later.
And if we extend those parameters of leniency so far, we betray our children, for we do not give them the values that we expect them to live up to when they become an adult part of our society.
There's one other issue in the range of measures that Michael announced in his remarkable speech the other day that didn't find room for it, for there was, even for the Home Secretary, a limited amount of time at this conference. But it's an issue upon which I feel very strongly and I can tell you today that we plan a big crackdown on the loathsome trade in pornography that offends so many people in this country.
There will be new powers of arrest and search, new powers to seize videos and other
material, and -
Yes, Madam President, it's tough. And so it should be. There's no place in a civilised society for that sort of exploitation of our children.
But don't let us delude ourselves. Fighting crime is not just a matter for the police or for the Government. We can legislate, we can provide the resources. We can do all that and the police can perform miracles on the resources they have. But Governments can't make people good. That is for parents, for churches, for schools, for every single citizen.
Like many people in this hall today, as a boy I knew people who had nothing, who expected nothing. They didn't commit crime because they did have something. They had values, dignity, pride, respect for their neighbours, and, above all, respect of the old.
And in the long-
Madam President, from the serious to the less serious: our opponents. Our opponents can't string two policies together but they can cook up a scare. And of course there's a ready market for scares. Every day I'm told what I think that I don't think, what I've done that I haven't done, what I'm planning that I'm not planning. Hearing the news day after day is a voyage of discovery for me.
Voyage of discovery for me, but very unsettling for many others, many of them elderly, more of them, not very rich, and most of them very worried. So let me offer some reassurance, not rumour, fact. Next time Labour and the Liberals say we're going to charge for visits to the doctor, you can tell them confidently, "No, we won't".
Next time they say we're going to charge for stays in hospitals, tell them, "No, we're not".
And when they say we're going to introduce prescription charges for pensioners, you can get right out on the doorsteps and tell them, "No, we're not".
They say we're going to force older people to go to the bank, not the post office, to collect their pensions. Well, really. I have 500 square miles of Huntingdonshire in my constituency and heaven knows how many rural post offices. I know their value to local village life. I know their value to the community. I know how much pensioners rely on them and that's why I promise you they'll be able to go on picking up their pensions at the post office.
So go out and knock all that nonsense on the head. And yes, I know the concerns -
This nation owes a huge debt to its pensioners. it's something this Conservative Party will never forget. So, it's our duty to keep our country a place in which they feel both safe and secure.
So when you hear people saying this, that or the other, don't always swallow it wholesale. Remember, in the immortal words of Sporting Life in Porgy and Bess, "It ain't necessarily so".
Madam President, scares take me naturally to the Labour Party. I'm not going to be
savage about Labour, I think the people of this country would welcome an end to the
So, as a man damned every Sunday for his moderation, I think I shall stick to my own civil instincts. But that doesn't mean I can't have a bit of fun. Did you hear John Smith's speech last week? He's a good man, is John, but Lord doesn't he go on about it?
He rather reminds me of a Scottish Buddha, the very essence of immobility with a
faint smile of perfect self-
Madam President, we saw something rather remarkable in Brighton last week. They called
it a "famous victory". Famous victory? I would call it John Smith's political Munich.
Here it is, composite -
Which one third is unclear. Perhaps they don't think it matters. After all, they've long had the bit above the neck.
What we have out of last week is a minor reduction in union influence in the Labour Party and the promises of a huge increase in union power in Britain, if there was a Labour Government. One small step for the Buddha, one giant step leap for the brudders.
Whatever the trade unions ask for, they got. And they asked for was unconditional surrender. Remember what Mr Smith said, "The country needs strong unions today, as never before". Madam President, after all we fought for over the last 14 years, I think this conference would beg to differ with that judgment.
Madam President, there's another strange party in British politics. It gives a different
answer to the same question in Cornwall or London, in Ryedale or Eastbourne, on Monday
or Tuesday. They're against VAT on fuel in the morning, and for a carbon tax in the
afternoon. But they are consistent about two things, the first of them is tax. They
are the other high tax party -
And the second thing they're consistent about is federalism. Centralism in Europe.
The Liberal Party is a federal party. Don't take my word for it, this is their conference
This is what they called for on page 99. They called for sensible application of
the social protocol and they had an amendment -
I agree. Sensible stands out like a sore thumb in every Liberal conference. But their leaders are fanatics for federalism. They have been out of government for so long, they have forgotten how to take decisions. The only decision they can take is that they want someone else to take the decisions for us in this country.
Next June, we will have European elections in Britain. Let me say to all our candidates who are present, and everyone here who will work in that campaign, that will be a national campaign. We are going to fight those elections on a clear and distinct British Conservative manifesto for the future of Europe.
Madam President, I have risked and sacrificed more than most for what I passionately believe in, a strong Britain playing a leading role in a strong and growing Europe, a wider Europe, a free trade Europe, a less intrusive Europe, our vision of an independent confident Britain, giving leadership with our partners in the European Community. And in our elections, in this country, next year, we will be the only mainstream party that is not prepared to move towards a centralised Europe and take that message to every doorstep in the country.
And tell them this too, tell them that any vote against us, for whatever party -
The Liberal leader says, rather nervously I thought, that the guns are turning on him. Too right they are, and not before time. Let the Liberals loose and the prospect of a federal Europe could be a reality again. In this country, they are federalism's fifth column. Away with them next June in the elections.
Madam President, before I leave the Liberal leader, I want to say a word about his posturing on Bosnia. I find it distasteful. No, no words suffice for the sheer dreadfulness of Bosnia.
The violence that has torn apart what used to be Yugoslavia has deep and bloody roots. They go back to the Middle Ages and beyond. People there have suffered great wrongs and unimaginable cruelties. We have given, as we always will, help, food, medicine, technical aid. We have sent British troops with humanitarian aid; the first country to do so. And those troops have saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives, men, women, children who would be dead from cold and starvation, are still alive, thanks to the activities, the skill and the bravery of those troops we sent to Bosnia.
Madam President, right at the start of this war, I said that I was not prepared to put British troops into combat to hold the various sides apart. It's my responsibility, my responsibility as the Queen's first minister, to advise when soldiers should be sent to fight and to risk being killed. It's all very well to call from the sidelines for a huge military commitment to Bosnia but I listen with respect to the views of the senior professional soldiers and airmen. They know the depth of the problem. They know what we would be asking their men to do. They know that while the threat of air strikes is a good deterrent, you cannot finally settle a guerilla war by bombing. They know that. We saw it in Iraq after the biggest Armada of bombing for week after week after week. it was not until we sent in ground troops that Saddam Hussein finally lost. And those senior servicemen warn me against trying to separate three sides, three sides that hate each other, in a cruel civil war, in some of the wildest hill and forest country in Europe.
There is another form of intervention, which we may have to contemplate. Intervention, not to impose a settlement on parties at war, but to implement a negotiated peace. Right now, alas, the peace prospects are thin and speculative. Too speculative to risk the life of a private in the Cheshires or the Prince of Wales' Own. The negotiators will go on trying. I earnestly hope they will succeed, but I shall not ask a British private to risk leaving his mother without a son his wife without a husband unless there is a real settlement.
Unless there is a real will by the people of Bosnia to stop fighting, not some ploy to suck outsiders in and then start the war again. I have never been in doubt about Bosnia. Though one cannot always speak one's mind plainly, I have understood that to intervene is to risk an intolerable number of British dead. A war is easily started. The boys are always going to be back for Christmas, but wars, particularly wars in the Balkans, have other ideas.
So, let me make clear. I leave the talk of a quick away-
And I will not put them at risk for the sake of talking big and striking attitudes. I will not rush into war.
Emotion says yes, logic says no. I say no.
Madam President, an unstable Yugoslavia is one thing. An unstable Russia would be quite another. So, let me say a few words about the events of the past week. We should be under no illusions about the real motives of the rebels in the Russian Parliament. They were out for blood, the blood of democrats and reformers and, had they won, the consequences for Russian and for the rest of the world would not have borne thinking about. Yesterday morning, Boris Yeltsin told me that the courts would now deal with his opponents. Madam President, that is not how they wanted to deal with him.
The Russian people have twice voted for President Yeltsin and for reform. Now he plans further election, free elections, not rigged Communist elections. He invited me, yesterday, to send British observers to ensure those elections were fair. I agreed and promised that we would certainly do so. Those elections in December will be the surest test that democratic reform remains on track. We backed Boris Yeltsin against the 1991 coup. We were the first to do so. We backed him last weekend and I promise you this, we shall go on backing reform in Russia in the months ahead.
When we speak of the threat of violence, there is one other place that is never far from our minds. Each day, every day this week, whilst we've been gathered here in Blackpool, thousands of young men and women risk their lives in the Army and in the security services in Northern Ireland. They stand in the defence of democracy and of the rule of law. Under a Conservative Government, they will continue to have all the support that they need.
Northern Ireland is part of our democracy. We are not going to bargain away the people's democratic rights, or any part of them, in order to appease those who seek to rule by bullet or by bomb.
Do to do, to do so, would betray the people, and, in particular, those of every party, many of them brave, who take a part in constitutional politics in Northern Ireland. So, no Government that I lead will negotiate with those who perpetrate or those who support the use of violence.
There is only one message for them to send. We have finished with violence for good. Madam President, we are and we will remain the Conservative and Unionist Party.
At the heart of our philosophy is an abiding belief in the right of the people of
Northern Ireland to determine their own future. Unlike the Labour Party, we are not
in the business of securing the break-
For us, the union and all it means is immensely important. In all parts of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, the union has the decisive support of those who live there. So, I give this assurance to the brave and resilient people of Northern Ireland, for our part, we will always back your democratic wishes.
Madam President, before I sit down, I want to congratulate all of you in the hall, all of you who are the backbone and the strength of our party, for your cool, your warmth and yes, your resilience during a remarkable and, how shall I put it, most diverting week in Blackpool.
Throughout the 1980s, the political energy of this country came from the Conservatives.
That energy must go on through the 90s and not only go on, but grow and develop,
driven not just by those in Government but by you who work on our behalf for our
philosophy, for our party, in each and every part of the United Kingdom. And if you
feel, as I do, refreshed and recharged by our work in Blackpool this week, then go
home and help us restore the fortunes of our party, through hard work and a passionate
belief that what we Conservatives stand for is more true, more deep, more enduring,
more in touch with the basic instincts of the nation we love, than all the words
of all the other political parties rolled together. We stand for self-
The message from this conference is clear and simple, we must go back to basics. We want our children to be taught the best, our public services to give the best, our British industry to be the best and the Conservative Party will lead the country back to those basic rights across the board. Sound money, free trade, traditional teaching, respect for the family and respect for the law. And above all, we will lead a new campaign to defeat the cancer that is crime.
Carry out that message. Reach out, not only to those who already think as we do but to all those with no special party allegiance who care for what we care for and who love this country as we do, for the same reasons we do. Do that. The fight goes on, the waverers will return and yes, a fifth victory will be ours.
And one final word. Thank you, thank for for something that has been quite fantastic, your loyalty to this party and your loyalty to me.